First of all, let's get straight what a press release is and is not. A press release is a short article written in a factual way. It is not a sales letter or an advertisement. Its main purpose is to promote your product, company, or event to the media in order to gain publicity. A well written press release can make a reporter's job easier by providing the basics for a news story, but a poorly written one will be discarded.
The most important thing to remember about a press release is that it must be "newsworthy". Newsworthy basically means something that is interesting enough to be, well, news! The five main criteria used to determine whether an item is newsworthy are its timeliness (is it current?), significance, location (how local is it?), prominence, and human interest value. For example, a men's clothing store giving Tie-tying tips to dads for Father's day is news (timeliness, human interest), but having a Father's Day sale is not. Remember, it has to be interesting to those in the media and to your audience, not just to you.
Proper press release formatting is also very important. First, keep your release under one page, about 300 to 800 words in length - if it's too long, it just won't get read. Next, begin with a short catchy headline, followed by a summary paragraph - one to four sentences highlighting the main point of your release. Now you're ready for the body of the release. Write your city, state or province and the date, right at the beginning. Then write your press release in article format. Include a general company information section and contact information at the end. And of course, don't forget to use your spell check!
Finally, press releases should be written in the third person and not first or second person. First person ("I said...") is rarely used in journalism and is not appropriate for press releases, as it makes the writer the subject of the story. Second person ("You should come to our store...") is also not a good choice for a press release, as it sounds like sales or advertising. Third person ("They will be opening...") is the ideal form of writing for journalism and press releases, as it is the most objective and unbiased style.
You can read our Press Release Guidelines online explaining in more detail how to format your press release for publishing, and other helpful writing information. For examples of press releases, see our Press Releases section.
Remember, the more relevant your release, and the better it is written, the more opportunity your press release has to do its job of generating publicity for your company!